With many businesses focusing their attention on returning to the office, our team at Vivvi believes this is an opportunity for employers to gain insights into how they can be supporting working parents as they reacclimate to the workplace once again. The COVID-19 pandemic cast a light on how challenging it can be to juggle a career and child care responsibilities at the same time – so, how can employers make this transition as seamless as possible?
In light of the return to work articles that we’ve been reading and seeing how the pandemic has affected this cohort of the workforce, Vivvi held a webinar on May 12th in conjunction with Mindful Return, New York-Presbyterian Hospital, and Horizon Media to address how C-Suite leaders and HR departments should be revisiting how they can support employees in gaining access to high-quality and effective childcare.
Mapping the Return to the Workplace Webinar: Key Takeaways
This webinar centered around important conversations relating to what a successful return to the office means for parents, especially after a year of undeniable change and trauma for families across the United States. Below is a selection of the top insights provided by the thought leaders when discussing how employers should help working parents navigate the return to the office.
Working Parents Need Quality Child Care Support: Employers Must Be in Proactive Mode
All panelists agreed that the pandemic perpetuated the childcare crisis in America. Before the pandemic, the average parent was paying more for childcare than they were on housing, healthcare, and food. Once COVID hit, this resulted in 60% of child care program capacity disappearing and approximately 2.5 million women dropping out of the workforce to look after their children.
To combat this many employers across the country had to enter reactive mode to support working parents and will need to do so sustainably for the long term.
Britt Sinha, Corporate Director of Benefits, Health & Wellbeing of New York-Presbyterian, shared how her organization immediately looked at every possible form of crisis care, backup part-time child care, and on-site full-time child care services they could provide to make sure that employees could be on the frontline in the hospital with peace of mind that their children were being cared for.
Eileen Benwitt, Chief Talent Officer at Horizon Media spoke about how the transition to working remotely made them “recognize the significance of what it meant to work from home”.
As a result of this the company created a survey to periodically pulse the organization to understand what’s on their minds, where are they struggling, what’s working/what’s not working, what areas they need to hone in on to improve the experience for employees because working remotely was a great benefit but there was also great difficulty in being remote and feeling disconnected from one another.
at Vivvi, our reaction was to literally meet employees and families where they were. We launched our in-home program which operates around the country and serves families straight from the comfort of their homes. Additionally, our on-site locations continued to operate throughout the pandemic.
Going forward, it is clear that employers need to keep employer-sponsored childcare services top of mind when transitioning back to the office. As Charles Bonello, CEO of Vivvi, explained: “The thing that ties all these together is really that employers know that they can’t ignore the impact that child care has on their people because it’s something that ties together the entire organization.”
The Return-to-Work Conversation Needs the Voices of Working Parents
If the voices of working parents are not included in an employer’s conversation around the best way to transition back to the office then these return plans will not be seamless or successful. All panelists agreed that providing avenues such as surveys, employee resource groups (ERGs), and in-person feedback through which employees with children can openly discuss their experiences and concerns will be a vital part of the re-entry process into the workplace.
Several years ago, Horizon Media embraced the needs of their working parents by setting up a collaborative group called The Village. Through this group and its spokespeople, the organization opened up a discourse around the challenges that working mothers and fathers face. This resulted in the company making significant changes to their parental leave benefits and other areas of the organization while also providing a collaborative space where employees could openly hold a dialogue.
Now, the company is using this resource in conjunction with their survey to hear employees’ feedback and thoughts surrounding returning to the office.
Providing platforms such as ERGs are a real venue for employees to express themselves, and has always been a powerful cultural and communication tool – now more so than ever before, for those employers that include their employees in the return to the office conversation. Vivvi’s CEO believes that “it unlocks the power of the people in your organization who are dedicating themselves so much.”
Small Investments in Working Parents Can Reap Big Rewards in the Long Run
Thought leaders in the child care space are challenging employers to look at various factors to realize the potential that investing in working parents can achieve in terms of a return on investment (ROI). While these factors will inevitably vary from company to company, the core benefits that are commonly seen lie in areas such as behavioral data, engagement levels, cost savings, and retention levels.
Britt Sinha of New York-Presbyterian provided the insight that without investing in working parents engagement levels will inevitably be lower: “We have engagement scores and look at how engaged our employees are because if you’re worried about your child at home and you don’t know who’s going to pick them up at two o’clock or whether are they getting their work done on their online school…then how much are you paying attention to your patient or work.”
Small investments such as ensuring that each employee has dedicated periods of time each week where they know that their children are being looked after allow them to put their undivided attention into either a work task or a personal need.
Horizon Media introduced a story hour where company executives read their favorite story to the children of working parents. This story hour “saved the working parents an hour of looking after their children – whether it was going for a walk, to take a bath, or reading a book.”
The clear takeaway here is that providing family-friendly benefits and resources to working parents has a direct link to increased engagement levels, productivity levels, and company loyalty. Charles Bonello sums this up quite nicely, “providing care resources to folks has a direct line to a reduction in everything from burnout to headcount, turnover, etc. It’s about how you measure that and what you care about to affect those changes on the other side.”
Re-Entering the Office Should Be Treated Similarly to Returning From Parental Leave
All of the panelists agreed that returning to work after parental leave “is a process, not an event” and re-entering the workplace after the pandemic should be treated in the same regard. The past year has been a transformative year for both existing and new parents. It opened their eyes to the work-life balance opportunities that remote work and hybrid work models provide especially from the perspective of bonding with their children.
Britt Sinha, who had a child herself during the pandemic, noted that employers should be looking at a return-to-work plan that facilitates working parents staggering their return to the office. Lori Mihalich-Levin, CEO of Mindful Return believes that this should be done in conjunction with offering parents support groups.
“We can make sure that employees are connecting and that working parents are in touch with one another during this process of returning to offices and reentering. That is only going to help all of us normalize those feelings of anxiety and also you know help calm each other down as we’re all navigating this new return.”
We Partner With Employers to Support Working Parents
To successfully map a return to the workplace employers must be willing to implement policies, benefits, and resources that allow employees to integrate all aspects of their lives, in the same space.
At Vivvi, we’ve been working with employers to support working parents where they are. Our in-home learning model and virtual tutoring services allowed parents to gain peace of mind knowing that their child is being looked after. This resulted in higher engagement, improved productivity, and decreased turnover rates.
For more insights from the How to Map the Return to Work for Working Parents panelists, click here to gain access to the full webinar. Looking for more information about how Vivvi helps employers support working parents? Get in touch with our team today or visit our employers page.